Random Conjectures

"Act locally; bitch globally."

Category: Uncategorized

More Notes from the First Circle of Hell

No automatic alt text available.

I’ve recently read something that has stirred up something vaguely resembling thought in me, and I’ve decided to put down those thoughts. Bad thoughts! Bad!

Seriously, though, the first of the writings in question is this one entitled Hikikomore and the Politics of Despair. The writer examines the lives of a growing sector of people in Japan who are described with the name in the above title. The name means ‘shut-in’, and refers to a large and growing group in Japan who have pretty much given up on Japanese society, and are living in their parents’ homes, or alone. They seldom go out of their rooms, and are pretty much bound to their computers, their televisions, or their video games.

The ultimate result of this way of life is called kodoyushi. It means lonely death, which is being experienced by more and more of the hikikomore, either as they age, or as they decide to give up. It is indeed a lonely death, because what often happens is that these people die alone, and their bodies are not found until days to weeks later.

The writer suggests that these hikikomore are the inevitable result of our modern society, that they are canaries in the coal mine: outliers who are showing the way that more and more people in the U.S. will be living in the not-too-distant future.

I hate to be the one to tell the writer, but it is unlikely to be as good in the U.S. as in Japan. It seems that in Japan, there is a much better social support network, in which people who can no longer cope are still taken care of. Not so in the U.S.

No, we have had our hikikomore for a long time now. We call them the homeless.

I see them every day in my little corner of the First Circle of Hell, here in LaLa Land.

I see them panhandling on the street around the corner from my little apartment, or sitting on the bus stops as I walk or ride the bus.

I see them on the freeway stop which connects the Silver Line with the Green Line, at the interchange of the 110 and 105 Freeways.  There, I see a small town of tents that huddle under the bridges and underpasses there.

I see larger tent cities on some freeway overpasses, or along deserted stretches of the land abutting freeways, or near Alvera Street in downtown L.A. Tens to hundreds of shabby tents filled with the remnants of what the people there once owned, or shopping carts filled with the last of their belongings.

But perhaps worst of all, as I walk down the streets of my little town, I see piles of clothing, or sleeping bags, or shopping carts filled with junk.

At first I did not realize what they were, and what those piles meant. But I soon found out that what was happening was that there was a crack-down by the police, and the police were conducting mass arrests of the local homeless.

And the police were leaving the belongings of the arrested homeless abandoned there on the streets.

So, what is happening is that the homeless here are being stripped of the last of their belongings, to be left with nothing after they are released from the local jail or county prison.

I can think of no crueler, nor more final, sentence of death for them.

Perhaps the worst thing that I had seen, though, was nearly a year ago, when I was walking from the bus to the small supermarket where I could buy my food. On the corner of First and Gaffey I saw a cheerful young black man with dreads, who had a shopping cart and, of all things, a beat up Irish harp with him. We struck up a conversation, and I found that he was vagabonding, and supporting himself by playing the harp and singing. He even said that he was on YouTube, and that HuffPo had recounted his story, calling him ‘the beat-box harpist’.

I gave him what little money I had, and went to the store, partly to get my food, and partly to get more money so I could give him a larger donation.

When I got back, however, the young man was gone, as was his harp. But his shopping cart lay there, abandoned, and a couple of other homeless guys were going through it to take what they could.

I could go on about any number of things that I’ve seen here. But I don’t think that you would believe them.

⊕     ⊕     ⊕

I suppose that I could say that I am in fact one of the ‘shut-ins’ that the article mentioned at the beginning of this little scribbling of mine. But actually, I’m writing this not to bemoan and decry my fate, but to point out how privileged I am.

I have a clean, separate duplex with a garden and trees in front of it, and a charcoal grill in back, which is large enough to hold me, and another person whom I have helped to keep, for the time being, from homelessness.

I have a family who loves me, and which for the most part has helped me during the time that I have been paralyzed inside, after the death of my first wife, Carolyn, and my second wife, Elizabeth.

I have both been given, and have garnered for myself, an education which has enabled me to make the most of my surroundings, including cooking some really good food for both myself and others.

And finally, I have been given the leisure to both further my education, and to make better use of both it and my life.

Yes, I am greatly blessed. And yes, I am richly privileged.

This does not mean, however, that I am going to listen to some social justice peacock preening its feathers, and displaying its virtue signaling, when it tries to tell me to ‘check my privilege’. I consider that to be a part of the ‘politics of envy’, that I have seen far too much of, and I both contemn and despise it.

Well, I’ve ‘checked my privilege’. It’s still here, and I intend on making the most of it.

I prefer the counsel of Christ, who, in the Gospel of Luke, said basically, those to whom much is given, much is expected in return.

I do not intend on letting my Lord and Savior down on this one.




Cowboys Drank Better Coffee Than Most Hipsters Do Now

cowboy chuck wagon

Yeah. And I can prove it, too.

Ever since my favorite nephew gifted me with a copy of Modernist Cuisine, I’ve been making considerable use of it. This book, in case I haven’t told you, and I believe I actually have, is a graduate level course in food science, and discusses deeply, intelligently, and luminously, the physics, chemistry, and biology of food. While it gets a just a bit deeper in what some have called ‘molecular gastronomy’, and what I call ‘inorganic gastronomy’, than I at present particularly like, I don’t plan on kicking it out of my library any time soon. In fact, I can not recall when I ever in my life received a better gift. Thank you, John.

But I digress somewhat. Included in Volume 4 of its five volumes is a chapter devoted to the subject of coffee. The author’s opinion is that most restaurants and coffee shops have little idea as how to prepare coffee correctly, which is a pity, because the science is simple, and the steps necessary are few, in order to make really good coffee. Read the rest of this entry »

Progress Report, October 2017, Month 2

Well, it’s been a month since I restarted my program of Remedial Education. Since then, I’ve made the following progress: Read the rest of this entry »

Uncle Boris’ Voodoo Saloon

Well, here I am again, peddling some more food porn. Part of the reason, I suppose, is some of the things I have been reading lately. One of those things has been a recent article from the Harvard Business Review. The take-away idea from that article is that only 10% of the American public likes to cook, while the other 90% is about equally divided in either actively loathing the process, or just being indifferent to it.

In typical Harvard Business School logic, what the author of this disquieting article wants his audience to conclude is that supermarkets and grocery stores should re-organize, and exclusively give the people what they want, and good and hard too: only pre-packaged crap that can be quickly reheated and put on plates. The author even goes so far as to praise this Reuters’ article, which in turn is an encomion of the latest food technology, in which packaged, sterilized food-like substances with unlimited shelf life will replace that nasty real stuff that tends to spoil and reduce market value. Even better, this stuff can be shipped by Amazon drones, and we can cut the middle-man of the local markets right out of the picture.

I dunno about you, but two images which immediately come to my mind are visions from that demented genius, Terry Gilliam, who turns his jaundiced eye toward the immediate future. The first is from his movie, Time Bandits, where one of the running gags in this delightful piece of mockery is The Moderna Wonder Major All-Automatic Convenience Center-ette”, an automatic kitchen which the young hero’s mum praises as being able to ‘turn a block of ice into Boeuf Bourgignon in eight seconds.’

The second image comes from Gilliam’s somewhat darker film, Brazil, where the only existing haute cuisine in that alternate future is several scoops of… No, I can’t bear to say it. You’ll just have to watch it for yourselves, all seven or eight of you. Read the rest of this entry »

Dinner for Sixty



-Boeuf Bourgignon (bacon free, gluten free) for 20;

-Coq au Vin (ditto) for 16;

-4 Quiches (9″, mushroom, onion, shallots, and bacon and shallots) for 16;

-Uzbeki lamb pilaf for 8;

-Basmati rice side dish for 60;

-Hand roasted, freshly ground Colombian coffee for 60.

It’s a long story.

For the past two years since my wife Beth died, my one live entertainment has been to listen to these guys, Simon and James, when they play the local pub at Pedro, about twice a year, in the summer and the winter.  It’s about a mile from where I live, so I usually get a reservation at the bar, tip the bartender a ten at the beginning of the affair, with the promise of another if the service is any good. It always is, for some reason.

So, between the food, which is okay, the beer, which is better but more expensive, the cover charge, and the tips to the musicians, it comes to quite a bit. As I am rather impecunious, I doubt that I could afford such more than twice a year. But Simon and James play a variety of trad music that I seldom hear in LaLa Land, so I find it to be worth it.

I’ve gotten to know Simon somewhat these last two years, and I wanted to buy some of his CDs before he performed the next time. So, I messaged him on Facebook to ask how I could do that. He told me that he would be in LA in early August, and we could meet at a mutual friend’s house to do the deal.

“Why can’t we do it when you’re at the local pub?” sez I.

“Because the pub hasn’t picked up my gig for this summer,” sez he. Read the rest of this entry »

The Blood is the Life: An essay regarding a diagnosis of the ills currently plaguing the Roman Catholic Church


Many of us have noted that not all is well with the Roman Catholic Church. Some are rejoicing over its supposed schism, heresy, or apostasy. Others of us sorrow over its sickness, as one would the illness of one’s mother. We wish there were some way it could be cured. Still others sorrow, but conclude that there is no cure: the only thing left now is to abandon ship, leave the impending shipwreck, and seek refuge in a Church which still lives, wherever that might be found.

Since I for my part believe that the Church of my youth both can and should be cured, I offer the following meditation. I would ask that those who read it consider what I have to say, accept it to the extent that it is true, and correct it where it is false. Read the rest of this entry »


T’was Brexit, and the slimy coves
did troll and google on the ‘net.
All WTF were the frontal lobes
‘Til we’d as soon forget

‘Beware the Donald Trump, my son:
The tweets that bite, the memes that catch.
Beware the JebJeb Bush and shun
The Benedict Cumberbatch.’

He took his Blackberry in hand.
Long time the orange foe he sought.
Then linked up he to the CNN feed
And labored at his thought.

And as in upload mode he stood
The Donald Trump, with eyes of flame
Came barging through the neighborhood
And MILO’d as he came!

One-two! One-two! And through and through
The Blackberry went shatter-crack!
The lede fell flat, and on his prat
He went a-tumbling back!

‘And hast thou muffed it one more time?
Get out of here!’ the editor said.
‘Our ratings fall! O, woe to all!
We might as well be dead!’

T’was Brexit, and the slimy coves
did troll and google on the ‘net.
All WTF were the frontal lobes
‘Til we’d as soon forget.

Some musings of a morning

Rumors of my demise being just a tad exaggerated, I suppose that I will have to toddle along. And, while I can not yet undertake the studies that I would like, I still seem to have made some progress.

It used to be that I loved reading in bed in the morning during summer vacation, when I was a boy. I have rediscovered that pleasure, and I am getting reacquainted with some old friends: H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft, Jules Verne, and John Bellairs, among many others. If I can manage to excavate my old copies of Lord of the Rings,  that is next on my list. But I still have enough in the way of books that have not been packed away to keep me occupied. Read the rest of this entry »

One step forward, four steps back

Well, here I am of a Saturday afternoon, stuck in bed. Much of the day has been spent sleeping, and what little time I’ve spent up has been involved in attending to either end of my alimentary canal, in the kitchen or the loo. If I had the strength, I’d probably be bored. But now, I’m spending what little strength I have on the adventure of trying to recover my former strength. That’s one step back. Read the rest of this entry »

Combating Stupidities


Having suffered from a certain amount of stupidity in my life, both that of my own doing, as well as that which I have suffered at the hands of other people, I have decided that it is time to try something new: to study the basic laws of stupidity, and to arrange my life so as to minimize my own stupidity, and the effects of others’ stupidity upon me.

To that end, I have looked into a little essay by the late Professor and Doctor Carlo M. Cipollo, entitled ‘The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity‘. Read the rest of this entry »